After a shaky start, the Washington Redskins took firm control of last year’s NFC East with some exceptional Quarterback play from Kirk Cousins and meaning a fully deserved franchise tag earlier this off-season for the Former Michigan State product. But one of the big questions surrounding the NFC East heading into the 2016 season, is can he complete a repeat performance and show it wasn’t just a fluke?
Firstly we have to look at what went wrong in the first 6 games, winning two and losing 4, before the famous “You Like That?!” moment in week 7. The clear pattern is that in each of the first 4 losses, Cousins threw 2 interceptions, including the game-losing Pick-6 to Desmond Trufant in Atlanta. Interceptions had been the main demon for Cousins in his previous spot starts in the previous 3 seasons, and looked to be rearing their ugly head again. But taking a look at them individually, if you take out the receiver error INTs such as the first against Atlanta, then you’re left with either a hurl down field when down by more than one score late, which you can’t entirely blame on him; and short sideline passes that were read by Cornerbacks. The latter was the key, as with no DeSean Jackson since week 1, teams would generally be wary of shorter passes to Garcon or Reed, meaning they would gamble on the short sideline throws as they knew if they missed it, they could still minimize the gain.
Then, the record breaking comeback against the Buccaneers, after the Redskins failed to establish the run game, and some less than successful defence, the Buccs were up 24-0. Being down so much the Redskins had to rely on their QB for a miracle. The key in this game for Cousins was Jordan Reed’s emergence to stretch the field over the middle and as was shown on his two touchdowns, sticking his freakish body in the way of DBs on slants to receive the ball, where previously in the season they had been intercepted. A new more exciting passer and risk taker emerged in this game, compared to the first few games where he had been shackled a bit whilst learning the offensive system.
From that point onwards he changed up a gear in performance level and led the Redskins to a 6-3 record down the stretch, with the 3 losses to New England, Carolina and Dallas; en route to the NFC Wild Card game against Green Bay, far exceeding expectations. He was completing passes at an incredible rate, and looked a man transformed with the whole playbook at his disposal, managing to complete a whole range of throws to his masses of weapons such as Garcon, Jackson, Reed and Crowder all firing on all cylinders.
I think it looks like these weapons will once again hold the key to Captain Kirk’s success in 2016, and if they all stay healthy I see no reason as to why Cousins can’t put in a similar type year again. Right now, it looks as if he could do similar to what Andy Dalton is doing in Cincinnati, and he was set for a breakout year until a thumb fracture cut his season short. A similar skill set and a high quality of receiving options to help him produce, and good offensive system that helps QBs thrive. Regression is possible for Cousins, but as long as he doesn’t try to do too much like he did in previous seasons, he should be the face of the Redskins for years to come.